I wore sweatpants to work last week, and no one cared. No, I do not work from home and this is not going to be a post about how awesome it is to work from home. I work a full-time 9 to 5 job in an office. But I wore sweatpants to work last week – something I’ve never done before in my life – and no one cared.
There are many articles on how to dress professionally for work, and many of these articles are targeted specifically toward millennials. I learned plenty of office dress code rules in grad school as well. I received my master’s degree in HR from a snooty business school, and it was typical for students to dress up for class.
Here are some of the many, many rules I’ve heard.
- Do not ever wear jeans, shorts, sweatpants, yoga pants, flip flops, or open-toe shoes to work under any circumstances.
- Never have tattoos or piercings showing.
- Suits must be well-tailored, and all clothes must fit well (can’t be too tight or too loose).
- For ladies, do not wear flats or hooker heels. A two-inch heel looks most professional.
- Skirts should be an appropriate length (not too short or too long).
- It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
- Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
I agree with these rules if you’re going on an interview, but if you’re just going to work, many of these rules are silly. With an interview, you typically don’t know that much about the company culture and you don’t know who will be interviewing you. If you end up with a conservative interviewer who’s wearing a suit, it’s probably not the best idea to show up with your tattoo sleeves visible.
But after you’ve already landed the job and you’ve worked with a company for a while, you know what the company culture is like. If you work for a company where everyone dresses formally, then yes, showing up to work in sweatpants isn’t a great idea. Every business is different.
If you work for a law firm and everyone wears suits every day, I don’t recommend coming to work in jeans. My husband works for a company that forces its employees to pay $1 to charity when they wear jeans on any day other than Friday.
But many other companies these days are adopting more and more casual dress code policies. I interned for a software company that allowed its employees to wear jeans every day of the week. I even saw the CEO wear shorts a couple of times.
My current employer is a fitness company, so it’s not exactly the typical office culture. Half of my coworkers wear fitness clothes every day, we have fitness balls that we use as chairs in the office, and my coworkers often bring their dogs to work. It’s a laidback, casual atmosphere.
Still, when I first started my job, I felt uncomfortable wearing casual clothes to work. I have always loved dressing up. When I was in high school, I dressed up a little on the days when I had exams. I lived by the motto: “You look good – you feel good – you do good.” Dressing nicely can certainly have a positive impact on confidence.
But you know what? Dressing casually is super comfortable and it can be nice once in a while.
Instead of listening to outdated rules about what types of clothes are “unacceptable” in ALL workplaces, pay attention to your own company culture and dress accordingly. If many of your coworkers wear jeans every day and have visible tattoos showing, you don’t need to dress up all the time and hide your tattoos.
If you work for a tech company and your coworkers occasionally take breaks to go play foosball or drink beer (I’ve worked for companies that allow drinking on occasion), dressing casually probably isn’t a big deal.
Workplaces are becoming increasingly casual. I suspect that as many baby boomers retire, and more and more millennials take on managerial roles, organizational cultures will become even less formal. Here are some interesting stats on millennials:
- 40% of millennials have a tattoo.
- 79% of millennials think they should be allowed to wear jeans at work.
- 93% of millennials want to work for a company that allows them to dress casually.
If you want to wear sweatpants and flip flops to work, and your company has a casual dress code, go for it! Stop listening to silly, outdated rules that definitely do not apply to EVERY workplace.